The conduct of the gubernatorial and houses of assembly elections has reportedly been moved to March 18 by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In 24 states, the elections were originally scheduled for March 11.
Wednesday saw the court of appeal reject Peter Obi’s request to stop INEC from changing the bimodal voter accreditation system (BVAS) in advance of the governorship and state assembly elections. Obi is the Labour Party’s (LP) presidential candidate.
While the tribunal’s decision allows the commission to start preparing the BVAS for the governorship and state assembly elections, INEC said in a statement released late Wednesday that was signed by Festus Okoye, INEC national commissioner and chairman of the information and voter education committee, that “it has come a long way.”
“Consequently, the commission has taken the difficult but necessary decision to reschedule the Governorship and State Assembly elections which will now take place on Saturday 18 March 2023. By this decision, campaigns will continue until midnight of Thursday 16 March 2023. 24 hours before the new date for the election,” the statement reads.
“This decision has not been taken lightly but it is necessary to ensure that there is adequate time to back up the data stored on the over 176,000 BVAS machines from the Presidential and National Assembly elections held on 25th February 2023 and then to reconfigure them for the Governorship and State Assembly elections.
“This has been the practice for all elections, including the period when the Commission was using the Smart However, we wish to reiterate that the Commission is not against litigants inspecting election materials. Consequently, it will continue to grant all litigants access to the materials they require to pursue their cases in court.
“We wish to reassure all political parties and candidates that the data from the Presidential and National Assembly elections will be backed up and available in INEC cloud facilities, including the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV).
“Political parties can apply for Certified True Copies of the backend data of the BVAS. Also, the results on the BVAS will continue to be available on the IReV for interested parties to access.
“We thank Nigerians and friends of Nigeria for their understanding as we continue to deal with these difficult issues and navigate these challenging times.”
In a court application, Obi had asked for a ruling preventing the INEC from altering the data stored on the BVAS machines until the proper examination has been carried out and certified true copies (CTC) of them have been provided.
On Friday, Obi and Atiku Abubakar of the PDP obtained permission from the court to see all the private documents used by the INEC to carry out the poll that was held on February 25.
But, INEC submitted a request to change the court’s orders.
Each voting unit has a unique BVAS machine that must be set up for the next elections, according to Tanimu Inuwa, counsel for the INEC.
He claimed that reconfiguring the 176,000 BVAS would be highly challenging for INEC.
While all data would be transferred from the BVAS to the commission’s backend system, Inuwa further clarified that no information in the BVAS will be lost.
“So, granting this application will be a clog in the process and disrupt the conduct of the elections,” he stated.
The court, which serves as both the presidential election petitions tribunal and ruled on Obi and LP’s request, refused to prevent INEC from altering the BVAS, stating that doing so would amount to limiting the commission’s hands.